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AOC introduces her latest 'unusual' policy—3 months of paid parental leave for her staff

U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) arrives before the town hall meeting in the Queens borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 27, 2019.
REUTERS/Jeenah Moon/File Photo

On Friday Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced what she calls another "'unusual' (but shouldn't be)" dimension of her office policy: In addition to paying all of her staffers at least $52,000 a year and paying interns $15 an hour plus benefits, her office will provide three months of paid parental leave.

"I'd like to share another 'unusual' (but shouldn't be) part of my office policy w/ you all: Parental Leave!" the congresswoman tweeted on Friday. "Three members of our small team are expectant or new parents in the first 6 mos of my term. In my office, *every* new parent receives 3 mos paid leave - including dads."

In an eight-part Twitter thread, she detailed how the policy works for her staff.

"Paid parental leave applies to ALL new parents, period. Moms, dads, parents; biological or adopted. If you've got a new child, you get 12 weeks to spend adjusting your family to this huge transition," she wrote. "Our 12 weeks parental leave is up to the parent on how they want to use that time. They don't have to take all 12 weeks at once - for example, they can take 5 weeks off and work 2 days a week to transition in; bank 3 weeks for later in the year, etc."

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Ocasio-Cortez emphasized her support for offering parental leave to fathers and encouraged men to spend time with their families.

"Equal pay at work is about SO much more than the salary you offer. If you give dads less paid parental leave than moms, you're contributing to the pay gap. If you see pregnancy or family as a workplace obstacle, you're contributing to the pay gap," she tweeted, adding that her office allows parents to bring their kids to work and allows new parents to use her personal office for breast pumping and feeding new children.

These policies, she explained, are all part of an effort to promote a "pro-family workplace." "We talk about what play mats + cribs we need along w/ our legislative agenda," wrote Ocasio-Cortez.

Three months of paid parental leave is significantly more than what members of Congress are required to offer their teams. Currently, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires public agencies offer their employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but it is up to discretion of each individual member of congress how much paid time off they provide. As a result, the amount of time new parents working in Congress can take off varies widely from office to office.

Ocasio-Cortez's staff reflects this balance of priorities. Her office employs roughly 18 people and salaries for high-level staffers top out at $80,000 — significantly less than the median compensation for Congressional chiefs of staff, who make approximately $154,634, according to data from political research firm LegiStorm.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) walks with her Chief of Staff Saikat Chakrabarti.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Members of Ocasio-Cortez's office say offering all team members a living wage is worth the sacrifice.

"I don't think you always put the burden on the bottom," Corbin Trent, Ocasio-Cortez's communications director, tells Roll Call. Trent has two children and makes $67,000 a year. "Is it easy? No. But part of walking the walk is understanding that everyone is going to have a little bit of a struggle. You divide it up. You work together."

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